Nakamura Wins 3rd Straight Titled Tuesday
GM Hikaru Nakamura, the highest-rated blitz player on Chess.com, had his most successful Titled Tuesday yesterday. He won his third straight, his first outright, and tied his highest score.
He is the second player to achieve a "Titled Tuesday turkey" -- GM Baadur Jobava also won three consecutive titles earlier this year. In the race for most lifetime first-place finishes in Titled Tuesday, Nakamura still trails two men. Jobava and GM Georg Meier remain tied with four each.
(picture right taken by Peter Doggers at 2015 Norway Chess)
Nakamura won $750, the largest payday to date in TT. The prize fund was increased from $1,000 to $2,000 starting last month, but he is the first outright winner since then.
Yesterday's victory could have been historic; it was nonetheless Nakamura's smoothest event to date. He was rarely in trouble for the first seven rounds, winning them all to create a 1.5 point gap with the field. He had a chance to break the all-time single-event mark of 8.5/9 (set by Meier in TT 2) but instead took two quick draws (four moves and 12 moves) in the final two rounds to ensure first.
Chess.com vice president IM Danny Rensch said a "perfect score" award may be added in the future. Let us know in the comments if you agree! [Update: Rensch has announced that a $250 perfect 9/9 prize will begin with the next Titled Tuesday on August 4.]
The only perfect scores in a TT event were turned in by Jobava, but those were in shortened events rather than the normal nine-round contests.
Nakamura won four(!) knight vs. bishop positions in the opening games, flip-flopping which minor piece he took with him into the endgame. In round one, he played the first of several Pirc Defenses, and got the archetypical dominant knight versus passive bishop.
The following round Nakamura had the bishop, but the board opened up so his result was the same: another win.
Round three he was back to having the knight in his holster. The strangeness of the ending could not be overlooked: he was down a pawn and he placed his knight in the corner, yet had the better chances!
With time running low it seemed GM Bassem Amin (Egypt and Africa's number one player) found a brilliant drawing idea with 55...Bxg3. It turned out the idea had a subtle flaw, which Nakamura found quite quickly:
In round four Nakamura used the knight again, this time in tandem with some rooks, to defeat GM Maxim Dlugy's bishop and rooks.
His third title was essentially sewn up in round seven, with, what else, another knight vs. bishop position (this time he took the latter). Before the ending though there was a complete mess on the board. At one point, Nakamura, playing Black, even castled with a white knight on f7 -- not a common thing to do!
While the endgame clinic was being performed in the opening hour, a few breakout performances began unfolding. The first was from young NM Hans Niemann. He will always be the answer to the trivia question, "Who was the last person to play GM Walter Browne in a rated game?" But the 11-year-old also made a name for himself at this Titled Tuesday, which happened to be the 11th edition. This begs the question, is there a such thing as a "Golden Titled Tuesday?"
He broke through the fortress in round two to keep alive his perfect score:
After having a strong IM on the ropes in round three, Niemann allowed a comeback, but then won four of his last six to finish with 6.0/9.
Another pre-teen made his mark at TT. Slightly under the radar at the beginning, 10-year-old FM Nodirbek Abdusattorov, the highest-rated U-12 player in the world, went a half-point better and scored 6.5/9.
The Uzbek youngster beat two IMs and a GM along the way. Here's a nice finishing tactic in round eight against a past Death Match champion. Maybe a Niemann-Abdusattorov Death Match pairing should be scheduled?
If you want to see all of the kid's destruction, here are all nine of the games he played.
The final "surprise" result came from WGM Aleksandra Dmitrijevic of Serbia, who turned in easily the best female performance of all time. She did so well, she won't even win the female prize, as she tied for second with 7.0/9, which is more money!
Had she won the event, she would have tilted the record books and made it five lifetime wins for the Jobava family -- she's married to Baadur! Her run included wins over two IMs and then two GMs in the first four games.
Here is round four, when she showed extreme patience in a cramped position against a past winner of TT. Against GM Jose Calors Ibarra Jerez, Dmitrijevic took a page out of Nakamura's book and transitioned into a favorable knight vs. bishop ending.
She then lost to Nakamura, beat another GM, lost to Meier, then beat her fourth grandmaster before also taking out Abdusattorov in the final round (he sadly disconnected in a roughly level ending).
Meier, a TT diehard, played yesterday (he's played in most of the 11 Titled Tuesdays and likely has the most lifetime individual game points) but in a rare departure, never seriously challenged for first. He began 4.0/4 but flagged while trying to win game five, then drew in game six and the margin became too great to overtake Nakamura. Meier settled for a tie with Dmitrijevic for second with 7.0/9.
He did manage to turn in one of the most exciting games of the afternoon in round two:
In a moment of levity to make the average chess player feel better, you may also wish to play through to the ending of these two GMs. GM Imre Balog, who very nearly beat Meier in a Death Match upset, had a full 47 seconds left when tragedy struck (or was it comedy?).
The mistake is of course an extreme anomaly. Balog is an excellent blitz player; after Nakamura and Meier, he was the third-highest rated played at TT 11 (83 players and 17 GMs participated). "He's one of the top GMs in these events who's not that well known to the general community," Rensch said.
It turns out after this game Balog is in good company. Recall that GM Garry Kasparov once stalemated with Q+B against a lone king in a blitz tournament. You can compare Kasparov's reaction to the less-sedate Rensch, who reacted this way when watching live:
The next Titled Tuesday will be August 4 at 11 a.m. Pacific (GMT -7). Tune in for live commentary of every TT on Chess.com/TV.
Here are the final results from this edition:
Titled Tuesday| Final Standings (Top 30)
|12||7||ESP||GM||jcibarra||Ibarra Jerez, José Carlos||6||27.5|
|30||74||BRA||FM||jumbas||Vainzoff Sztokbant, Bernardo||4.5||19.5|